Home > Brandenburg, Culture > The Surrender of a Sanctified Culture

The Surrender of a Sanctified Culture

February 6, 2008

If you visit a mental ward, a crazy house, you will see two distinct cultures—the inmates and the doctors and staff.   Most people would agree that they want that difference.  Because of the clear delineation we get the humor in the statement, “The inmates are running the asylum.”  In the rest of the world, things aren’t so easy to distinguish anymore.  We’ve reached a point in the United States where many are proud to have blurred the lines where there was once a sharp contrast.Â

Is There to Be a Christian Culture That’s Different than the World’s?Â

In general, culture refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance.  Those structures of symbol are music, literature, rhetoric, art, architecture, and fashion, among others.  In simple terms, culture is a behavior or way of life.

Can we judge one culture to be superior to another?  God’s way is better than man’s.  In Isaiah 55:8, 9, God tells us:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God is holy, that is, He is majestic, high above, and separate from His creation.   God wants the culture of His people to be, as much as possible, the same as His.

He expected a difference between Israel and the nations around her.

Leviticus 20:26, “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.”

Leviticus 22:31-33, “Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the LORD.  Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the LORD which hallow you, That brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD.”

The Lord intended Israel to be different than the nations around her.  He laid out particular behavior and activities that she was to fulfill and also required her not to imitate what the other nations did and how they acted.  God teaches the same thing in the New Testament for the church.

Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

1 Peter 1:14-16, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Since God’s people (believers) represent God, they must live differently than those around them.   The culture of the world is not going to represent God, so Christians can’t live in common with it.  Their lives must take on distinct actions and symbols that reflect God.  One way the Bible communicates this is that they are “in the world” but are not “of the world.”

Jesus expressed this contrast in John 17, when He prayed for believers.  In v. 11 He says, “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee.”  And then in v. 16, He says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

Are the Only Differences Those Expressly Stated in Scripture?

From the Old Testament texts, God’s goal for Israel seems to be more than merely fulfilling all the commands that He gave.  The New Testament passages require some nuanced and sophisticated application.   For instance, we must understand what it is to be “of the world.”  This is more than just disobeying explicit directions from Jesus.  We aren’t to conform to the world (Rom. 12:2).   Therefore, we have to know what “the world” is, so that we don’t conform to it.

“The world” isn’t the planet.  It is the world system, the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the cultural climate of the era.  To know what “the world” is requires interpretation, necessitates discernment.  We have to find the message in the symbols that make up the culture.   Some of those meanings are timelessly inherent in the images and sounds.   However, even words can change in meaning, depending on the time period, so that all of them must subject themselves to ongoing judgment.

The instruction, “be not conformed to the world,” reminds me of the ambiguity of 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5, where each of the Thessalonian believers are told to “possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, not . . . as the Gentiles which know not God.”  How do those who “know not God” possess their vessels?  We must observe the methods that the unbelieving world uses in order to avoid them.  The assumption of Scripture is that we can know what is wrong and what is right.

We are also reminded that it is more than just objective standards that we are to keep.  God wants “honour.”  “Honor” goes further than sheer obedience.   God wants us to understand the gist of what He desires—this distinctiveness, uniquness, that makes up the separateness, the holiness of God; not common or profane, i. e., worldly—and fulfill that.  The tendency of God’s children should be to walk with the consideration of His nature, not relating to the world but representing Him.

The opposite of holiness is common and profane.  As His representative on earth, God expected holiness from Israel, not commonality and profanity.   He wanted Israel to be different and this wasn’t something that was simply cut and dry.  God communicated this expectation of a majestic uniqueness for His people through the many laws that He established for them.

Leviticus 10:10, “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.”

Ezekiel 22:26, “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.”

Believers are to retain their separate culture that represents God.  They are not to be like the world.  To do that, they must judge everything.  That’s why Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.  Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Believers are required to test everything and eschew themselves of anything that smacks of this world system, its message, direction, and philosophy.

What Does or Does Not Preserve a Sanctified Culture?

Instead today, in order to fit into the world, in many cases with a perverse understanding of evangelism, professing believers have surrendered a sanctified culture.  It doesn’t feel good to be hated by the world, to be despitefully used.  Because of this, preachers don’t often mention worldliness anymore, and if someone does confront it, the cultural barbarians scale the walls with ridicule and propaganda.

The Bible applies to culture—art, music, literature, dress, etc.—all the means by which we express our way of life.   In other words, it thoroughly furnishes us to every good work. On the other hand, the new, pop “Christianity” takes the world’s present forms of culture and uses them as a vehicle for Christian truth.  Its advocates often say that by using the world’s forms, they sanctify them.  Instead, the truth is dragged down the level of its media.  God wants us to separate from the world’s culture and live out a distinctly Godly one, one that expresses the attributes and nature of a holy God.

At the root of this new and false way is a false view of evangelism.  Men are saved through a miracle of the Gospel, not by candy-coating Jesus through a dumbed-down contextualization.  God takes men from the miry pit and sets them on a rock (Psalm 40:1-3), while pop-Christianity turns the grace of God into lasciviousness.Â

As well, there is a fundamentally false view of sanctification.  When God saves us, we become like Him.  God condescends to man.  He doesn’t become like men when they get saved, but He does make men like Him, returning them to the moral and mental likeness that they lost in the Garden of Eden.  The regenerate man becomes a partaker of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 2:4).   A new convert will change, much like what occurred with the demoniac of Gadera, who became clothed and in his right mind (Mark 5:15).

God’s Word mandates personal separation and holiness, so we shouldn’t give in to the growing number of frauds who push on us their new, worldly lifestyles.  It isn’t how believers have historically viewed the world or interpreted Scripture.  Their surrender of a sanctified culture signals an increasingly apostate time.  More than ever we need exegetes of the truth providing application to the culture, so that instead of the world turning us, we turn the world upside down like the apostles of old.

  1. February 7, 2008 at 6:06 am


    Holiness is almost a lost concept within most of professing Christianity. Of course, that is why it is merely professing Christianity and not real Christianity.

  2. February 7, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks Bro. Ketchum. I agree too. Holiness isn’t popular. An understanding of it has been perverted also.

  3. February 8, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Hi Kent,

    Man, we must be … on the same wavelength! See my latest in beyond outrage . . . a call for a theology of culture.

    Here I am calling for it and you are offering it.

    We need to think more on these things. Good work here. I am just about to finish the OT in my Bible reading plan. I have decided that I need to read the NT with particular attention to allusions to culture that we find there. “The world” is a big term in all of this.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. February 8, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Yeah Don, I didn’t even know your post was coming. We actually decided about a week and a half ago to make The Application of the Bible to Culture to be our month’s theme. I think there is something deep in all of this, much further than what I wrote. Of course, with a blog, I limited myself to the gist of it. I was surprised when I read yours, but agreed with it.

  5. February 9, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I have a new series of studies completed on Holiness (28 chapters) I will send these studies by attached file to anyone FREE if they request a copy by e-mail (Microsoft Word format).

    Permission is given to reproduce for Sunday School or Small Groups through a local church. The KJV of public domain is used in all my studies.

    You can make the request through our web site contact information:

    Or send request to:

  6. Douglas Sanford
    May 17, 2008 at 5:18 am

    5. Lance Ketchum – February 9, 2008
    I have a new series of studies completed on Holiness (28 chapters) I will send these studies by attached file to anyone FREE if they request a copy by e-mail (Microsoft Word format).

    I came to your page when I was working on a sermon for childrens church, I am over in our church at centeral baptist church in soutington ct. great job in writting. I AGREE WITH YOU 100%. i PLAN ON USING SOME OF WHAT YOU WROTE TOMORROW WHEN I PREACH TO THE KIDS. My text will be leviticus 10:10

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